The mood at BYU’s practice Tuesday afternoon was positive and upbeat.
No, the Cougars certainly aren’t happy about their current four-game losing streak. But players and coaches are trying to keep things loose as they prepare for their next contest and work on snapping that streak.
BYU visits Loyola Marymount Thursday (9 p.m., MST, ESPNU) and then it plays at Pepperdine Saturday.
“We’re hungry and digging deep and hopeful and urgent and fatigued — all the things that you should be at this point of the season,” said coach Mark Pope. “I think our guys are committed right now to try and perform on Thursday.”
One of the players that participated in Tuesday’s practice was senior guard Te’Jon Lucas, who missed last Saturday’s loss to Gonzaga due to a minor concussion and a sore neck and shoulder.
Lucas didn’t practice Monday.
“We’ll see how he feels. But I’m hopeful,” Pope said about Lucas’ status for Thursday. “We just kind of kept him out (Monday) just as being as cautious as we can. And I didn’t know if he was going to practice (Tuesday) either. But he came into the office and was like, ‘Hey, I’d like to try.’ He actually did a conditioning deal yesterday, and he actually responded pretty well. It’s a pretty simple conditioning deal. But his post-exercise effects were negligible. So we’re hopeful and we’ll see how he feels.”
Despite the rough stretch the Cougars are going through, Pope said his team is grateful to be able to play college basketball and it’s trying to make the most of the opportunity.
“We can’t forget how much we love this game and how special it is that we have today where we get to play it,” he said. “We’re not promised tomorrow. We’ve seen that this year. … It’s so important that we remember how grateful we are that we get to do this.”
Freshman reserve guard Trey Stewart said his teammates are handling the difficult situation as well as they can.
“You watch the games, it’s not a lack of effort,” Stewart said. “Everyone is giving their all. We’ve got to figure out how to put our pieces together. That’s our main concern, to play as a team.”
Pope likes his players’ attitude.
“They care. The emotion that pours out of these guys as they’re chasing this through wins and through losses is enormous, the emotional capital they put towards this,” Pope said. “Fortunately, the whole world doesn’t see these guys in the moments when things are really hard because these guys are incredibly vulnerable. That’s how you are when you put your whole heart into something. It’s a journey.”
BYU (17-8, 5-5) at Loyola Marymount (9-12, 2-7)
Thursday, 9 p.m. MST
Radio: BYU Radio/1160 AM
Of course, Pope had quite a journey himself as both a player and as a coach. He said he draws upon his experiences and shares them with his players as they experience a surprising losing streak.
“I don’t share too much personal stuff with the guys. They don’t want to hear about some old guy who played 100 years ago. But I do draw on the experience because I can relate,” he said. “I’ve had moments like this where I can relate to this feeling. Certainly, as a player, I can understand what this can feel like, all the dynamics. And it doesn’t just feel like one thing. You’ve got all of these competing thoughts and worries and hopes and expectations rolling through your mind at the same time. It can get super cloudy. Yes, 100% in terms of drawing on that experience to try the best we can to navigate this.”
Losing tests players as well as coaches. How does Pope handle losing?
“I’m so bad at it,” he said. “I’m awful.”
The Cougars are hoping to put an end to their losing streak this weekend in Southern California.